If you are looking for a way into the music of trumpeter Hikari Ichihara, forget the techno-jazz pop of her synthesizer-heavy debut of originals or even her second album, “Sara Smile,” in which she delved into standards, and start with “Stardust,” her latest solo album.
“Stardust” is the 24-year-old Ichihara’s breakthrough, combining standards and a couple of originals with the help of a highly competent backing band: Pianist Adam Birnbaum rejoins Ichihara for the second time; Aaron Heick plays alto sax and a flute; and Wayne Escoffery is the perfect foil for Ichihara’s full, mellow sound, with a tenor sax that has range and a visceral edge, especially on “I’ll Wait For You.”
Ichihara arranged all the songs, even managing to scrape the sugar coating off the crowd-pleasing “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Putting her solo first on lead track “Blue Minor,” the engaging improv starts with an exclamation before becoming a rollicking, catchy romp. Solid renditions of standards allow her originals to flourish as alternative tracks, and the only major quibble is that the digital mastering done by the producers that sometimes strips Ichihara’s warm timbre into a cool, slightly impersonal sound. Ichihara will tour Japan this August.
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